Does your accommodation business have a guest feedback process in place that truly empower you to be responsive and bring change? Or are you at the mercy of social media channels to know how your business stacks up? The best insights come from a direct conversation with your guests: here are 5 tips on how to use guest feedback to help grow your business.
- Are you asking at the right time?
Have you ever just taken a bite of your food when the waitress asks if “everything is to your satisfaction”? Timing is everything. The same goes for guests that stay with you: they are less likely to be honest if they are asked to complete a feedback form and give it back to your staff in person. Why is that? There are many reasons, but here are a few. People are
- generally embarrassed when they criticize service face-to-face
- wish to spare the feelings of the staff when they give feedback
- lack the courage or tact to do it
- fear some form of retribution
- haven’t had a chance to process their end-to-end experience, or
- prefer to be anonymous.
Give your guests time to reflect on their experience with you, and the opportunity to respond when it is convenient for them. They should also be able to do this anonymously if they choose, so that they feel safe of any potential retribution because of their feedback.
- Are you asking in the right way?
How you ask your guests for feedback tells them if you are merely ticking the boxes (like everyone else because it’s the general practice), or if you are really interested to hear what they have to say. One of the tell-tale signs is how you ask for feedback and the tone you use.
- When using a feedback form or app, make sure that it is consistent with your branding.
- Your written voice should sound authentic and be conversational (think of how friends ask each other about their holiday experiences).
- For anonymity, you can use online tools like Survey Monkey. Alternatively, make it easy for guests to complete the form when responding to your email.
- Are you asking the right questions?
Our feelings are not easily translated to a simple “yes/no/not applicable” or a rating out of 10. Don’t limit your guests’ valuable feedback with boxed-in answers. To unlock their real experiences, you have to ask the right questions. You need to delve deeper to understand their experiences and needs. Giving them the opportunity to share their moments of magic or misery is the only way to make meaningful changes.
Show your guest that you are really interested in what they have to say by letting them write or tell their own stories in their own words. How? By asking open-ended questions.
And don’t use a feedback platform if you don’t intend to do anything about it. People quickly sense when it’s a mere PR exercise or that an effort to improve guests’ experiences.
- Are you getting the right person to respond?
It’s crucial that the general manager takes ownership of the feedback programme: that way, the accommodation business will stay on top of their game and the team will be able to deliver continuous magic through his or her support. The programme will unearth valuable clues on how to turn service failures into wins. Other managers can review and summarise the feedback, but the responses to guests should be coming from the general manager (especially for exceptionally positive or negative feedback).
Design templates to make it easier for the general manager to respond to issues or compliments (see our tips below on how to deal with negative experiences).
- Are you responding in a way that makes a real difference?
When your guests make the time to tell you about their experience, it’s incredibility important to have the courtesy to respond. Where the feedback is negative, you have a great opportunity to turn this negative experience into a more positive memory by the way you deal with it. It’s only natural to feel somewhat disappointed, angry or even insulted when someone criticises our accommodation business; however, you can achieve a lot more if you step into their shoes and consider: what response from you would truly make a difference to them?
To streamline the process, you can craft a variation of basic responses for either positive or negative feedback. However, remember that each response must be heartfelt, authentic and relevant: thank your guest for their time and acknowledge their contribution to improving your business.
For great reviews:
Ask permission to place it on your website, and/or ask if they would be willing to post their review on the platform they booked through (e.g. Booking.com) and popular review websites (TripAdvisor).
For negative reviews:
- Thank the guest for making time to share their story honestly.
- Tell them why you value their feedback.
- Say that you are sorry for the way they that this experience affected them, because their feelings matter and are real to them (even if you believe the feedback to be harsh, unfair or incorrect). Acknowledging emotions or the impact is not an admission of guilt; it’s a profound tool to connect with others.
- Explain what you are going to do about the situation.
USEFUL TIP: Depending on where the guest lives and on how severe the impact on them was, consider a small token to “sweeten” your response (e.g. a Starbucks or Takealot voucher). Your message could read: “Sorry we messed up – because you are so far away, please have a cup of coffee on us. We may not be able to see you in person to apologize, but we want you to know how much we value your feedback as part of our continued focus to improve and grow. We don’t want anyone else to feel like this, so we are working on addressing this with our team.”
As you can see, the true art of guest feedback lies in getting the real story from your guest and decoding it into constructive, actionable content. The format should also make your guests heard and valued for taking the time to invest in your accommodation business’s processes and offering.
How do you build your philosophy of customer care at the end of their journey? From our 30 years’ experience working with true customer-centric clients, we know of no better tool than a Voice of the Customer (VOC) programme to cut through the clutter of typical feedback formats. Make your business thrive by harnessing this unrivalled resource: your guests’ stories.